Skip to main content

NBC Looks to Spark Larger Fourth of July Fireworks Audience

Most people are too busy to watch much television on the Fourth
of July, and that's why the broadcast networks mostly run repeats. But each
year, NBC televises the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks from 9 to 10 p.m. and
CBS airs the Boston Pops Fireworks from 10 to 11 p.m.

These two special hours don't draw massive audiences like
NBC gets for its three-hour telecast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in
November, which airs at 9 a.m., but both the NBC and CBS' fireworks telecasts
draw decent viewers numbers for a summer night.

Last year's Macy's fireworks telecast on NBC drew 8.6
million viewers from 9-10 p.m. and an 18-49 rating of 2.1. That was 20% more
viewers than the 2010 Fourth of July special and a 50% better 18-49 rating. It
was the most viewers the telecast drew since 2000 and the largest 18-49 rating
since 2007.

The NBC fireworks telecast, in fact, has grown its
viewership by almost 70% since 2009 and more than doubled its 18-49 rating, albeit
the demo rating being off a pretty low base.

Meanwhile, the CBS telecast of the Boston Pops Fireworks
last Fourth of July drew 6.6 million viewers, down just slightly from the 6.7
million it averaged in 2010 and 2009, while averaging a 1.1 18-49 rating, up
22% from each of the previous two years. Interestingly, CBS' viewership last
year compared to previous years was not impacted negatively by NBC airing an
"encore" or repeat of its 9 p.m. telecast of the Macy's fireworks at
10. The NBC repeat telecast draw another 5.3 million and drew more younger
viewers than the CBS Pops Fireworks telecast, averaging a 1.4 18-49 rating.

The granddaddy of special parade or fireworks events each
year, however, is NBC's telecast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The
parade drew 22.3 million viewers last November, basically flat with the 22.1
million it drew in 2010. For advertisers wanting to reach their favorite 18-49
demo, or even the younger and harder-to-reach 18-34 demo, many are watching the
parade. Last November, NBC's three-hour telecast averaged 3.3 million 18 to 34-year-olds
and 7.8 million 18 to 49-year-olds, but there were also 8.1 million viewers
55-plus watching too. The median age audience though, was about 46, which is
younger than most broadcast primetime series, except for Fox animations shows
and series on the CW.

Even the CBS telecast of the same live parade draws a median
age audience under 50 -- 48.9, but viewers are seemingly in the habit of
watching the parade on NBC. The CBS telecast last year averaged only 6.5
million viewers, which is not too shabby for a Thursday morning, but not close
to the 22.3 million that NBC averaged. The CBS viewership of the parade last
November was actually down 1.2 million viewers from 2010, but still pulled in
about 2.2 million 18-49 viewers.

The holiday special that was initially a surprise in its
total viewership was NBC's airing of the National Dog Show, which it televises
right after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade at noon. Yes, there is some
audience flow, but instead of leaving their sets to eat their Thanksgiving
meal, 8.2 million viewers for the past two Thanksgivings have stuck around to
watch the two-hour dog show, including about 2.2 million 18-49 viewers. NBC has
been televising the National Dog Show for the past 10 years, leading out of the
Thanksgiving Day parade.

Another one-day-per-year staple on two networks -- NBC and
ABC -- is the Tournament of Roses Parade from Pasadena, Calif., which airs each
year in early January, usually on New Year's Day. In 2012, it was carried
live on both ABC and NBC. The ABC telecast aired on Jan. 2 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
while the NBC telecast aired from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Each telecast drew about
5.5 million total viewers with a median age of 60, considerable older than the
Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is watched by millions more kids and tweens.

The Tournament of Roses Parade usually takes place on the
same day as the Rose Bowl football game unless the Rose Bowl game happens to be
the BCS Championship game. ESPN just signed a 12-year extension to televise the
Rose Bowl, so it would be a natural for sister network ABC to continue
televising the Tournament of Roses Parade.

NBC, which has traditionally also televised the Tournament
of Roses Parade, televised the Rose Bowl from 1952 until 1988 when ABC won the
TV rights to televise the game. ABC televised the Rose Bowl until 2011, when it
began on ESPN. NBC has been televising the parade since 1954 and continued to
do so after ABC won the rights to televise the Rose Bowl game. There is more than
likely a different audience, with an older median age, that is watching the
parade and the Rose Bowl football game. Both the ABC and NBC telecasts of the
Rose Parade average about 3.4 million viewers 55-plus, more than half of the
total audience.